Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tony Blair says that we should see Palestine for ourselves

I was just looking at an article on Politico about Tony Blair's recent interview in Conde Nast Traveler, in which he suggests that we think of Palestine more as a travel destination. He thinks that tourism to the area will help the peace process. He assures us that he never felt unsafe while traveling in Palestine. Granted he probably had a team of body guards with him, but based on personal experience I'd have to agree that Palestine is relatively safe compared to some destinations in South America and Asia, which Americans still flock to despite known risks. There were two commenters ahead of me.

Conservative #1 says that we need peace BEFORE travel, not the other way around, unless we want a bunch of American hostages. There are more than enough travelers visiting Palestine already. If there was going to be a hostage-taking epidemic in Palestine, it would not be a consequence of increased tourism. Palestinians would be thankful for the extra income.

Conservative #2 says something about terrorists killing infidels. Brilliant stuff. 

Anyway, here's what I added to the discussion:

Just last year I visited Israel and Palestine with a group of students from my university, all of us enrolled in a Biblical Archaeology-focused course. I don't think most Americans realize that some of the more important locations in the Bible, like Bethlehem and Hebron, are actually important Palestinian cities. We stayed 3 nights in Bethlehem. Even though the environment was noticeably impoverished (my hotel room was painfully 1970's, however comfortable) I felt like I was treated more nicely in Palestine. And I never felt endangered. I saw far far less guns in Palestine than I saw in Israel. And actually, most of the guns were Israeli snipers stationed around Abrahamic holy sites. We were had to go through 3 checkpoints to get into a certain mosque. We were told a 6 year old boy was gunned down the month before because he ran through one of the checkpoints on his way to prayer.
There was only one time in the entire month that I felt threatened and that was during a monthly (fairly large) anti-Islamic parade held by a conservative Jewish group, where they openly sing songs about taking back the Temple Mount and destroying the Dome on the Rock. We were staying with with a group of nuns on the Via Dolorosa, which happens to go through the Muslim Quarter. The paraders graffittied the doors to our building as they passed and the nuns warned us that they might spit on us. Americans should visit Palestine more to see what it's like for themselves. 
Certainly, as an American, (wearing shorts and holding a camera) I have never received more resentful looks than I did when strolling through the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem. 
Ridiculous. Anyway, I need to blog more. I think I feel like because this blog is just completely public, that I'm hesitant to use it unless I have some reasonably good material (not that every thing I've written about so far has been ground breaking by any means). But I should just write. And hope for the best. I'm not going to live forever and I can't keep waiting for brilliant words to pop out of my subconscious. And damn it Blogger, you suck at formatting! This paragraph should be normal size font. And it keeps inserting weird